How to prepare your Tu Bishvat seder table

Sunday, January 24, 2021, 10:00—11:30 am on Zoom—We’d be delighted if would join us for a communal Tu Bishvat seder. Here are the foods and items that you will need—feel free to substitute ones you have on hand for the suggested items. Living on an island, we realize that in winter there are some items that are not so easy to find. As the foods are symbols and signs to help us get closer to concepts and emotions, please feel free to use items that speak to you and are easy to procure. Please note that it is customary to prefer fruits grown in the Land of Israel  and mentioned in the Bible (bolded in the list). 

  • Wine and/or grape juice. We will be using both red and white. White grape juice is not always simple to find, so feel free to substitute with a light fruit juice.
  • Fruit that has a hard outer shell, and is soft and edible insidesuch as walnuts, almonds, coconut, pomegranate.
  • Fruit that is soft on the outside, and has a hard inner core (pit)such as olives, dates, apricots, peaches
  • Fruit that is entirely ediblesuch as figs, grapes or raisins, apples, berries

We will learn more about these symbolic foods and how they relate to our lives and our relationship with Creation. 

For more information about our Tu Bishvat program…

Looking forward to learning, exploring, and feasting together.
Rabbi Harry

Creative Midrash with Rabbi Harry

Sunday, February 7, 2021 at 7 pm on Zoom—Midrash is the Talmudic/rabbinic tradition of fleshing out Torah text, described best by Tillie Stanger-Ross as “rabbinic fan fiction.” We will use creative media and modalities to generate new insights and meaning for classic Torah narratives, using “Bibliodrama”a form of psychodrama developed by Peter Pitzele to uncover archetypes and emotions that stem from Torah narratives. We will also engage in collage-making and journaling, to explore and generate personal and relevant new understandings of Torah narratives.

Continue reading Creative Midrash with Rabbi Harry

Introducing Cyril and Helen Keston

After almost 40 years in Regina, Cyril and Helen Kesten flung aside their heavy winter coats, and made the move to Sidney, BC. Born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End, both Helen and Cyril went to the University of ManitobaHelen graduating as a social worker and Cyril as a teacher. 

Cyril spent almost 50 years as a teacher, and teacher-educator focusing on instructional design, program evaluation, financial literacy, media, and distance education. As a Professor of Education at the University of Regina for nearly four decades, he carried pioneering education techniques to Africa, Australia, China, and Britain.

Helen established two successful businesses in Regina—The Palace Guards, a home sitting service, and Helene Kesten Galleries, an art gallery specializing in Inuit soapstone sculptures. Helen helped create the Regina Diving Club; became a nationally accredited gymnastics judge; founded and ran the Regina and District Jewish Seniors; became the go-to person in Regina for Holocaust Education; and spent many years as the Community Development Officer for the Saskatchewan Jewish Council (South). For these efforts Helen was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal, the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers and the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal.

Helen and Cyril who have three children and seven grandchildren are beyond thrilled that their daughter Stacey, her husband Harris, and their two boys Noah (8) and Hope (2) have moved to Sidney. Now that they’re more or less retired, Cyril and Helen are pursuing their interests in Victoria. They say they have been delighted with the warm reception they’ve experienced in the Jewish community.

Hebrew Time!!—For Families with Pre-Schoolers and Younger

Beginning Sunday, January 17, 2021—Come and join Rabbi Matt Ponak for singing and stories, all while learning Hebrew. This is a fun, entertaining, and relaxed way for your little ones to get their first taste of the Hebrew Language. Hebrew Time begins this Sunday, January 17, 2021 and will be weekly—except for holidays and holiday weekends. This class is free/by-donation. Please contact to register.

  • Join online: CLICK HERE
  • Regular Dial-in: Call: 1 778 907 2071
  • Meeting ID: 883 7699 6759

Did the Golem tango?

On Sunday, January 10, 2021 Dr. Dan Russek from the University of Victoria, led a lively talk about Latin American writers from a Jewish perspective, focusing on Jorge Luis Borges, a prolific writer and philosopher from Argentina.
His presentation introduced us to the Jewish immigrants who arrived in Argentina expecting to see an America that was more like their visions of the USA but quickly adapted to life in the “other” America, some of them even becoming gauchos on the pampas. Dr. Russek showed us that the field of Latin American literature is so much broader than one would expect. And no, the golem didn’t actually dance the tango, but Dan managed to tie the Czech story to the residents of Moisés Ville. There is so much to learn that perhaps we will be fortunate enough to have a follow up session with Dr. Russek in the future.

Four Worlds Shabbat Service: Body, Heart, Mind, and Soul

Saturday, January 23, 2021 from 10:00 – 11:30 am on Zoom—Inspired by the deep structure of the Shaḥarit Service, Rabbi Matt will lead us through Qi Gong movement, niggun (wordless melodies) singing w/guitar, spiritual reading, and meditation.
The Four Worlds Service is inspired by Kabbalah and the teachings from Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi. He taught how the four parts of Shaḥarit —  Birkhot Hashaḥar, Psukei D’zimra, Shma U’virkhoteiha, and the Amidah align with the Kabbalistic worlds of physical/assiyah, emotional/yetzirah, mental/briyah, and spiritual/atzilut

As an alternative to liturgical forms of tefillah (prayer), Rabbi Matt will share practices that align with the Four Worlds that are not siddur-basedQi Gong for physical (because it involves body movement), niggunim for emotional (because they open our heart), a spiritual reading for mental (because it brings in a sense of awe), and silence/meditation for spiritual (because it is an invitation into connection with Goddess—whatever your preferred Goddess language is!). Reb Zalman taught of the “deep structure” of texts, prayers, and mitzvot and it is from the deep structure of the “Four Worlds” that this service is based. 

Continue reading Four Worlds Shabbat Service: Body, Heart, Mind, and Soul

Tu Bishvat 2021: Celebrating our natural environment

Sunday, January 24, 2021, 10:00—11:30 am on Zoom—These challenging times have made all of us more grateful for the beautiful environment in which we live. Although we cannot celebrate the New Year of Trees in our usual way—together this year by going on a hike and spending time outdoors together—we have found a way to come together and celebrate nature.

Continue reading Tu Bishvat 2021: Celebrating our natural environment

Biró’s in Bergen

Zsofi, Daniel & David

It’s been almost two and a half years since the Biró family left Victoria for Bergen in Western Norway. Although very beautiful, Bergen is the rainiest city in Europe. Where Victoria gets an average of 23 inches of rain per year, Bergen receives over 88 inches! 
Starting a new life in Norway has not been easy. They all took languages classes and now navigate their everyday lives more or less in Norwegian. Daniel holds a position as Professor of Composition at the Grieg Academy, U of Bergen. He teaches composition to BA, MA and PhD students, organizes concerts and research symposia, and is constantly at work on his own compositions. Daniel has also been central to the organization of the first official Jewish association in Bergen. Nearly 80 years after the Holocaust in Norway, this will be the first official Jewish organization in Western Norway. 
Zsofi works as a substitute high school teacher and as a volunteer English teacher at a local organization that provides supports to immigrants, refugees, and low-income people. Soon turning seventeen, David attends a Norwegian high school, plays piano and tuba and is a computer technology whiz. He recently completed an online introductory course in coding offered by Harvard University. 
Says Zsofi: “We all miss the community of Congregation Emanu-El. While it was necessary to move for professional reasons, the inability to take part in regularly organized Jewish life has been difficult.” With the establishment of Det jødiske Samfunn I Bergen (The Jewish Community of Bergen), the family hopes to initiate a new chapter of Jewish life in Western Norway. “Even being far away,” adds Zsofi, “We still feel part of the Congregation Emanu-El community.”

Havdalah B’Yaḥad (Together)

Motza’ei Shabbat—Saturday,  January 16, 2021 at 6 pm—Come join us for a beautiful and uplifting Havdalah virtual gathering. Let’s bring the joy and light of Shabbat into our week with alluring music, ritual and meaningful Torah learning.
Learn about Havdalah ritual objects and how you can make your own to use at our next gathering. Sustain a touchstone for connecting with community and friends and bring blessings into all of our lives.
Looking forward to sharing Torah, blessings, and joy with all of you.

And please join us in a toast to Zelda Dean as we honour her years as our Office Manager and wish her joy in her new projects.  
Rabbi Harry

  • Join online: CLICK HERE
  • Regular Dial-in: Call: 1 778 907 2071
  • Meeting ID: 865 7114 8558

Super Ruaḥ (Spirit) Filled Zoom Kabbalat Shabbat!

Friday, January 8, 2021 starting at 6:00 pm—Join Rabbi Harry and Rabbi Matt in an evening of song, storytelling, movement, and more as we welcome Shabbat together with a not-quite-traditional Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv Service.
We miss you! We miss making music and sharing simḥa together. We miss enriching our Shabbat lives with our amazing congregation. So, Zoom in for fun, connection, celebration, and meaningful Torah learning.

  • Join online: CLICK HERE…
  • Regular Dial-in: Call: 1 778 907 2071
  • Meeting ID: 856 5170 2188
  • Passcode: 612360